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Archive for the 'USH: Constitution' Category

4 Minute Animated Lecture: The Making of the American Constitution

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

One Nation Under God?

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

The words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and the phrase “In God we trust” on the back of a dollar bill haven’t been there as long as most Americans might think. Those references were inserted in the 1950s during the Eisenhower administration, the same decade that the National Prayer Breakfast was launched, according to writer Kevin Kruse. His new book is One Nation Under God. Here is an interview with Kruse from Fresh Air.

And here is Kruse in a KCRW debate with: 

Kevin Kruse, Princeton University
Gary Smith, Grove City College
Alan Cooperman, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life
Mary Ellen Sikes, Secular Majority

Supreme Court throws out conviction for violent Facebook postings

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

The Supreme Court on Monday made it harder for prosecutors to convict those who make violent statements on Facebook and other social media, saying it is not enough that an ordinary person would find the rants threatening.

In its first examination of the murky rules regarding conduct on the Internet, the court moved cautiously while throwing out the conviction of a Pennsylvania man whose postings, delivered in rap-lyric style, suggested killing his estranged wife, federal law enforcement officials and even a kindergarten class.

The narrow opinion said it was not necessary to address whether the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech protected Elonis’s Facebook statements. The opinion also declined to take a position on whether it would be enough for a conviction to show that a defendant had been reckless in making inflammatory statements, as Alito proposed.

Paraphrasing the famous holding from Marbury v. Madison that it is the court’s prerogative to say what the law is, Alito said the court was announcing, “It is emphatically the prerogative of this court to say only what the law is not.”

Pardon Pot Prisoners?

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

On Monday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 46 federal prisoners locked up for nonviolent drug offenses, raising the total number of commutations he’s issued to 89. The decision came 15 months after former Attorney General Eric Holder announced the president’s request to prioritize clemency applications from nonviolent, well-behaved, oversentenced drug offenders.

While there’s still time, the president should consider an act of clemency that measures up to history: pardoning every marijuana offender.

Read The Atlantic’s argument…

KCRW Discussion: One Nation under God…but Since When?

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

American values may be compatible with the Christian Bible…but the Founding Fathers insisted on the separation of church and state. Yet many Americans believe they live in a historically “Christian Nation.” We hear about a long-running campaign to associate religion and politics.

The Comparative Constitutions Project

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

You can now read, search, and compare 160 constitutions from around the world thanks to Constitute, a website launched by Google on Monday.

The site, developed by the Comparative Constitutions Project, with seed funding by Google Ideas, has digitized the constitutions of 160 countries, making them fully searchable. A user can browse the constitutions using nearly 350 curated tagged topics like religion, political parties, or civil and political rights; or simply search by year or country.

The 11 (5 Really) Declarations of War

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

As one might expect there is more to this story...

The “I Heart Boobies” Case Could Decide the Fate of Free Speech for Students

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

This week, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Philadelphia, ruled in a longstanding case about the appropriateness of silicone bracelets inscribed with “I ? boobies!” in schools. The bracelets are sold around the country by the Keep A Breast Foundation to raise awareness for breast cancer research.  Often, students wear the bracelets to support family members struggling with the disease. But across the country, schools have banned the bracelets as offensive sexual speech, confiscated them, and suspended students for wearing them. In some schools, officials reportedly snip them right off. The constitutional question is whether the bracelets are lewd sexual speech that proves distracting and disruptive in schools, or a political symbol of support for breast cancer awareness.

Two middle school students in Easton, Penn., wore the bracelets (with their parents’ permission) despite a school ban that called them “distracting and demeaning.” The girls were suspended and banned from participating in extracurriculars.

More at Slate

What a Cattle-Theft Case Could Mean for U.S. Law Enforcement Use of Drones

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

It was a strange and historic moment when North Dakota police decided to call in an unmanned Predator surveillance drone over a farmers’ dispute about animals. Now a court case in the small town of Lakota has become the primary testing ground for the use of unmanned aircraft by law enforcement across America.

The odd episode began in June last year when six cows wandered onto land owned by Rodney Brossart, who declined to return them to their owner until he was paid for the feed the cattle had consumed.

When police tried to get involved, Brossart’s family—who “prefer to limit their contact with governmental actors,” according to a court brief—allegedly chased the officers away with guns. Ultimately, a military-grade Department of Homeland Security-owned unmanned drone was deployed (for reasons that are disputed),  and a local SWAT team called in. Brossart became the first American to be arrested with the assistance of a drone—and the six cows were returned.

Quick is arguing that “the warrantless use of unmanned surveillance aircraft” was unlawful on Fourth Amendment grounds. He points to the United States Supreme Court judgment in Kyllo v. United States, which held that obtaining information by sense-enhancing technology not available for general public will be subject to constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Founding Rivalries: More Like Squabbling Brothers Than Fathers

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Intrigue, duplicity, back-stabbing, and character assassination. Think it sounds like American politics today?

Try the 1790s, a decade that saw Thomas Paine–famous pamphleteer for the revolutionary cause–denounce President George Washington as a “hypocrite in public life” for signing a treaty with England. And earlier in the same decade, you’ll find the recently retired secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson, telling his crony James Madison to get busy destroying the good name of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. Yes, the same Hamilton whom Madison had collaborated with only a few years before in writing the famous articles in support of the Constitution.

And back-stabbing? Well, there’s the fine case of Ben Franklin penning a secret missive to Congress accusing fellow emissary John Adams of behavior “improper and unbecoming” for refusing to truckle to ally France’s every whim. Not nasty enough? Try Vice President Jefferson telling a French diplomat that President Adams is “a vain, irritable, stubborn” man. Given such a climate of slander and treachery, should we be surprised at the 1804 duel between the vice president of the United States and the former secretary of the Treasury, a duel in which the latter was killed?

Americans who think they live in politically divisive times might do well to look back at the first decades of their republic’s history.